If you are underweight, you may have been told by your doctor that you should gain weight. If you are an athlete, you might want to gain weight for any number of reasons – either because you want to join a more competitive weight class for tournaments, or because you want to gain muscle, and know you will gain weight as a result of putting on that extra muscle mass (recomping – losing fat while getting stronger – is very hard to do and doesn’t tend to result in noticeable strength gains for people that are already fit).
So, what are safe and effective ways to gain weight? Well, all ways to gain weight follow the same principle – eat more calories than you use on a day to day basis, and you will gain weight as a result.
The question is, how many more calories should you eat each day, and what should those calories be in the form of?
If you eat junk food, you will gain weight, but a lot of it will be fat. If you eat a diet that is rich in protein and healthy fats, and have a large calorie surplus, then you will still gain a lot of fat, but some muscle along with it. If you follow that same diet while lifting heavy weights, then you will get stronger and gain muscle – as well as fat.
If you eat a calorie surplus of 500+ calories per day compared to your total daily energy expenditure, then you will gain fat, even if you are lifting heavy weights at the same time. The fat gain is, sadly, unavoidable. Eating at Eating a smaller calorie surplus might help you to gain more muscle and less fat, but there will always be some fat gain.
Some people simply don’t have large appetites, and they find that they struggle to eat enough calories to really gain weight – but you can get around this by using protein shakes and mass gainers, and even by drinking smoothies to get extra calories.
Indeed, strength coach Mark Rippetoe recommends that people who are looking to get strong drink a gallon of milk a day to support the calorie intake that he believes a novice should have while they are engaged in a strength training programme. This isn’t something that you could sustain for very long periods of time, but for a young man who is looking to gain serious muscle mass, it could be an option.
It really depend son why you are trying to gain weight, your current body composition and weight, your age, your gender, and your current level of fitness.
If you are recovering from an eating disorder, for example, then your path is going to be different to someone who is just looking to gain a little weight during pregnancy. If you have any concerns or aren’t sure what to do, then talk to your doctor first before changing your lifestyle.